6679 Highway 15
Seeleys Bay, ON K0H 2N0

The title of this post is from a new article we came across from a fertilizer manufacturer and retailer with some interesting observations about the power of silicon and calcium, both nutrients that are naturally found at high concentrations in Canadian Wollastonite. The article describes multiple benefits of calcium and silicon: thicker cell walls, increased fruit brix, greater flowering, and flavour. These benefits make sense as potential physiological responses by plants as they increase their silicon and calcium concentrations. It is an interesting read and linked here. We appreciate the evidence and suggestions about the benefits of calcium and silicon included in this article, however, without statistical support in the experiment and tests (achieved by repeating the same experiment/test three or more times) we are cautious about the claims made. Picking up on the wide array of benefits described in the article, we have elaborated below on some of the physiology (plant science) to support how calcium and silicon can improve crop performance.

With roots for legs, plants are poor runners. Stuck with what is nearby, plants do the best plants can. NPK are heavy hitters in stimulating quick plant growth. The ability of the rest of the nutrients to keep up with quick growth stimulated by NPK is a key factor in determining crop quality and stress tolerance to climate, pests, and disease. Central among the other nutrients are calcium and silicon which are both key players in building the physical structure of a plant. Like a house, you build it quick and sacrifice quality and end up with a house you can live in, but it may not withstand the test of time. Ensuring adequate calcium and silicon availability helps ensure that the best materials are available during construction, even if it is a rushed job.

Figure 1 – Root of a sugar beet. From Weaver, 1926 – Root Development of Field Crops

In temperate climates, calcium and silicon both enter most agricultural plant species by passive diffusion. This is really important because the level of Ca and Si accumulation in a leaf is related to the amount of water a leaf has transpired and the availability of Ca and Si in the soil. The tougher feel and number of small hairs (phytoliths) on leaves can be attributed to increased concentrations of calcium and silicon accumulating over time. The more water a leaf transpires the more Ca and Si the plant can uptake in the soil water that the absorbed through the roots. If Ca and Si availability are low in the soil, the soil water will contain low levels and the plant will substitute another nutrient, keeping with the house analogy, building with less calcium and silicon is like using smaller nails or wood beams. The house can still be built, the house looks like a house but may not withstand the tests of time.

Figure 2 – Leaf cells with chloroplasts. The level of fertility can affect the density of leaf cells in turn affecting cell wall thickness and leaf structure. Image credit: Wikipedia

There are many other factors that contribute to plant health and stress tolerance. Micronutrients power an incredible immune and stress response system. Sulphur is another important structural component of protein in plant cells and magnesium is central in every molecule of chlorophyll. The goal of any growing program is achieving the right balance to maximize yield and crop quality while minimizing costs. Improved stress tolerance often results in reduced crop losses from poor harvest quality to lodging in grain crops. It is important to note that while total yield may not jump from improved calcium and silicon availability, often the harvestable and salable yield do which increases profits, which are the best thing to grow on any farm.
We believe Canadian Wollastonite is an excellent cost-effective addition for any grower looking to take advantage of the benefits that increased silicon and calcium availability can provide.  Contact us to find out how we can help you start leveraging the benefits of calcium plus silicon in your operation.